Visiting San Francisco: Stow Lake

Last week I visited the Bay Area. I have family that lives out there, and I try to visit every year or two. I figured that since I am writing more on this personal blog I may as well include some Recollections from my travels. There isn’t a whole lot in the Bay Area that I feel the need to write about; there are quite a few fun things, but not all of them necessarily Merit writing.

I figured I’d start today with what I consider to be my favorite part of the journey, Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.

My first visit to Stow Lake was something of a fluke. My family had been visiting Golden Gate Park for various attractions, like the Japanese tea garden. Stow Lake is initially unassuming. There are paddle boats, though I’ve never been on one, and a couple bridges that run across the lake to Strawberry Hill, an island at the center of the lake. Strawberry Hill is not terribly large, but it is interesting hike if it can be called that.

The approach to Stow Lake; I was coming from the direction of the San Francisco Botanical Garden and the Japanese tea garden; the path to the lake is as strenuous as the path to the peak of Strawberry Hill, though this is not a huge inconvenience.

I don’t know if it was discovering it with my brother or the beauty of Strawberry Hill itself that formed such a strong impression on me, but I consider it almost a pilgrimage site when I am in San Francisco.

Although it is not a very strenuous walk to the peak–there is a paved path that leads most of the way up, and a gravel path that can go the rest of the way to the top without requiring any stairs– the view of San Francisco and the Bay is stunning.

I’m kind of obsessive about not catching people in my shots as much as possible, so some of the better views of San Francisco weren’t captured. I also wanted to get more of the immediate surroundings, so the best views are to be found elsewhere.

The hill itself is a home to wildlife, both beautiful plants as well as birds and squirrels. On my most recent visit, I saw a massive raven, as well as some bluebirds that were in a dispute with a squirrel about some territory. I’m not much of a botanist, so I don’t really know that much about the plants that grow on Strawberry Hill. Despite its name, I do not believe that there are any strawberries planted there (not that I would even know). I’ve heard the name be attributed to the shape of the hill itself, which resembles the fruit of a strawberry.

There are also waterfowl, ducks and geese are the most common. Seagulls also come due to the proximity of the Pacific, but they are not terribly common compared to the other birds.

Yeah, I can get photos of ducks ten minutes away from my house, but these ones were by Stow Lake.

There’s also a pagoda garden, if that is the right term for it (it was full of people, so I didn’t capture a picture). I’m not quite sure what the proper term is. This is more popular with casual visitors: it lies on the lower ring of the road that reaches across the island, so it does not require a climb to reach.

I couldn’t get a photo of the garden that I felt comfortable sharing, but this small waterfall is just across a stone walkway from the garden.

If you’re in the bay area, I highly recommend checking out Stow Lake and Strawberry Hill. It’s not as extravagant as the neighboring botanical garden in terms of what plants you’ll see, and it can be crowded and noisy at some times, but it’s also a tremendous sight.

Image Credit: All photos taken by myself, using a Moto Z2.

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